Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quickie: Decade's Best Athletes and More

Today's SN column lead was a little muddled, I'll admit.

In part, it was a rundown of the best/most intriguing/etc athletes of the decade, which is not all that hard to name: Tiger, Phelps, Lance, Federer, LeBron, Bonds, Brady, Bolt, Tebow, Danica.

Then, I tried to make the point that novelty is sometimes enough (Danica) and off-field mythology certainly helps (Tebow), but championship (or all-time) performances trump all.

That's what we remember athletes for. Gilbert Arenas -- my favorite NBA player of the decade (although one I didn't know I would love way back in 1999) -- was a nice quirky little story. But he wasn't transcendent. It's comforting to know that performance still matters most.

In the next decade, what will we remember? It's obviously hard to say -- who, in 1999, saw Phelps' 8 golds coming? Or Lance's 6 Tour titles? Or Federer? Or LeBron? Or Brady? Or even Bonds? (Let alone things like the Rays winning the AL in 2008 or Florida winning back-to-back basketball national titles in 2006-07.)

We can make a reasonable guess that A-Rod will break the all-time record for career home runs -- that will be the most significant milestone of the decade (short of a player breaking DiMaggio's 56).

We can make a reasonable guess that LeBron will win a title -- maybe more. (Although I still contend that the emergence of Dwight Howard could make that much harder than folks think.)

We can make a reasonable guess that Tiger will break Nicklaus's all-time record for major golf titles. That will be a big deal, too.

But no one will break Phelps' 8-gold record. No one will win 5 Tours in a decade like Lance just did. It's hard to fathom anyone but Bolt breaking Bolt's records in sprinting.

But if someone does, you can guarantee that their name will show up at the end-of-decade lists in 2019. Because winning performances are what people remember most.

More in today's column:

*I agree: The Colts essentially tanked the game against the Jets, just as they'll tank this coming weekend. What I can't stand is any talk from Tony Dungy that Jim Caldwell is being intellectually honest about being "competitive" but Bill Belichick wasn't being equally honest when he played the percentages against the Colts a month ago.

*I'm excited for the Week 17 "play-in" games, but let's be honest: The AFC Wild Card teams aren't going to win the conference title. So let's not get TOO excited.

*Mike Leach: Yikes.

*Steve Addazio is a great guy and a terrific motivator -- and, frankly, one hell of an offensive line coach. I'm also sure he'll be a perfectly fine interim head coach at Florida. Where I would become a little more nervous is if he was still the head coach next fall. (Oh, he'll make a fine head coach somewhere in 2011, and this experience will help his resume tremendously. I just would rather not have Addazio as the full-time Florida head coach for a regular season.)

*Northwestern is ranked in basketball for the first time in 40 years. That is all.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Steve said...

You're not allowed to revel in Northwestern success since you stabbed them in the back and started obnoxiously pulling for your wife's team.